THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
Sony dances to Apple's tune
The electronics giant is adopting a format Apple favors -- but its players still can't play iTunes downloads. Plus: Online satire stings Halliburton.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor and Oliver Ryan, Fortune reporter

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - The headlines all screamed of a musical detente between Apple and Sony. But the headlines got it wrong. Sony is in fact adding support for AAC, a digital-music file format also used by Apple. But Sony isn't adopting FairPlay, the digital rights management system Apple (Research) uses in its iTunes Music Store to prevent piracy. Still, Sony's move will make it easier for iTunes users to move at least part of their music libraries onto Sony (Research) music players. Any songs they have ripped from CDs onto their hard drives in the unprotected AAC format -- the default setting in iTunes software -- will now play without requiring cumbersome recoding.

Iowa State upgrades virtual reality room

Microsoft's hard sell backfires
The software giant gets caught using scare tactics to drum up new deals. Plus: Spammer gets five-year sentence. (more)

When a chalkboard just doesn't do the trick anymore, it's time for teachers to bring out the six-sided virtual-reality room. French tech blogger Roland Piquepaille reports that Iowa State University's 10' x 10' x 10' VR room, dubbed "C6" and originally built in 2000, is scheduled to get a $4 million upgrade. Out with the Silicon Graphics (Research) servers, and in with 96 Hewlett-Packard (Research) graphics units and 24 Sony digital projectors. When Iowa State re-opens the room in 2007, researchers at the world's most realistic VR room will bathe in 100 million pixels of high-res imagery. One Slashdot reader notes that even in the old C6, the VR world was so vivid that he managed to mistakenly walk into a wall. Contrary to the dreams of other Slashdot readers, however, the room is not meant for playing 3-D World of Warcraft games. Operated by the Virtual Reality Applications Center and funded in part by the Air Force, the room has been used for urban planning applications, data visualization projects in cellular biology, and no doubt a variety of classified Air Force applications. Just think of what your PowerPoint presentations would look like in it.

Web activists post Halliburton satire

You've already read about how global warming can be good for business. So it was perhaps inevitable that someone would send up today's latest environmentalist punching bag, Halliburton. A web parody of Halliburton (Research) claims to offer "SurvivaBalls" that allow corporate managers to escape the dire effects of the global warming they helped create. Faked quotes from Halliburton executives include this gem: "It's a gated community for one." CorpWatch was quick to attribute the satire to the Yes Men, an activist group that has previously mocked the World Trade Organization. Indeed, the website is registered to one "Alfred Barbalunga," with a email address -- another domain name registered by the Yes Men. Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann said in an email that the documents on the website were fake.

New social network launches

A new social network for groups has elbowed its way into the market today, reports Michael Arrington at TechCrunch. Like an updated Yahoo (Research) Groups, CollectiveX is meant to do for groups what News Corp.'s (Research) MySpace does for individuals. That is, it allows groups to keep track of their members, exchange files, maintain a collective calendar, and generally communicate online. Arrington suggests the application is what veteran business networking site LinkedIn "should have been." One major difference from existing social networks, however, is that CollectiveX will charge for its services: groups with up to 50 members will pay $36 a month for full functionality, while larger groups may pay up to $149. Some of Arrington's readers are skeptical. "Looks cool, but it is expensive," writes one. While another understandably wonders "More social networking sites. How many do we need?" Top of page

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